“Thanks to Airbnb, now anyone with a house or apartment can offer a room for rent. Hence, income inequality reduced.”
— Twitter post by Marc Andreessen, venture capitalist and philanthropist
Three thousand miles away, in Silicon Valley, innovation is said to be the new philanthropy. Tech companies both small and large — the number of which with billion-dollar valuations seems to be ever-increasing — believe by offering new approaches to things like transportation (ride-sharing apps), networking (social media platforms), or communication (emojis 🙂 ), they are changing the world more for the better.
Yet, not everyone agrees that disruption — a favorite, though mostly meaningless, term within the tech community — always leads to positive change. For example, the thousands in San Francisco or New York who’ve been evicted or had their rents raised to untenable rates due in no small part to the pressures brought on by the unregulated apartment-sharing sight mentioned above, might be more likely to focus on the negative effects of disruption.
Tech companies, like other businesses, are inclined to want to justify themselves as having an impact that garners a net positive for the world. As Steve Hilton, a co-founder of political start-up Crowdpac.com, recently pointed out in the , “McDonald’s and Walmart also think that their businesses help society. Walmart says it lowers the cost of living for poor families. All corporations think they are having a positive impact.”
As individuals, though, we don’t necessarily operate that way. A couple of extraordinary examples: someone like local resident 92-year-old Joy Casino — who has made several thousand garments for some of world’s most desperate and vulnerable human beings — or the Taylor family who, every holiday season, feeds nearly 100 families in one of Jacksonville’s most impoverished communities, there are individuals who don’t care what Mark Zuckerberg is up to, and probably don’t think much about how to reframe their motivations in a way to make themselves seem more philanthropic.
Indeed, study after study shows that most people, when given the opportunity to help someone in need, will just simply do what needs to be done. On the following pages, there are stories of people like Casino, the Taylor family, and others going to extraordinary lengths to make the world a better place to live. Theirs are inspiring stories, no doubt, but perhaps the most amazing thing about what these people are doing is that everyone we interviewed for this issue talked about how fortunate they felt to be able to lend a hand. Which is one of the reasons we’re so excited to include our annual Give Guide. In this comprehensive listing (available in the print edition of Give), we’ve done our best to help you identify ways to get up, get out, and give back.